The doctors told her that she would never walk again, but she was determined to let the spotlight shine on her one day and she succeeded.
Gloria Estefan was the lead singer of the band Miami Sound Machine that made chartbuster songs that were always in the top 10 during the 1980s and 1990s. There was a time when her popularity was greater than that of the band and many commentators labeled her as the Hispanic version of Madonna. Her career was reaching newer heights when everything changed in a blink of an eye.
On the fateful day of March 20, 1990, the Conga singer was traveling with her husband Emilio Estefan and son Nayib on the band's bus, when it crashed into a semi-truck on a snowy highway, according to Biography. Nayib suffered a fractured shoulder and Emilio only had some minor injuries. But for Gloria, it was the worst because the accident broke her back & left her completely paralyzed. It was almost like the end of her glorious career.
"I was taking a nap on the bus, trying to be fresh for the show that night, and suddenly I was lying on the floor, not able to stand up, looking up at the ceiling, going, ‘What happened?’ The pain was excruciating," said Gloria while talking to People.
Her world had turned upside down. Even the doctors had told her that she might never be able to walk again. Talking to HuffPost back in 2016, she said, “I’ll never forget, he came into my room and he said ‘OK, this is what science says: It’ll be very difficult for you to [walk], hopefully you can walk... but I doubt you’ll be able to ever perform again."
The doctor continued, "Now, having said that, I can tell you that I’ve seen a lot of things that we’d consider miracles and that it’s up to you what happens with your life.” This left Gloria devastated. Performing was her life and so she became determined to get herself to stand up on her feet once again.
“I fought like hell,” she revealed. With long hours at the rehab, she recovered from "floating in the pool for three months" to performing at the American Music Awards in January of 1991 and launching a year-long tour in March to promote her comeback album, Into the Light.
Talking to People, the 62-year-old revealed that there was a "before and after from that accident." She said, "Even though I wouldn't want to go through it again, I learned a lot about just living day-to-day." She went past each hurdle thinking that it was a way of telling people that they can survive anything. While being an inspiration to others, she set up a new goal for herself too.
She said, "After my accident, I couldn't imagine going from being almost paralyzed to walking again. I made myself short-term goals to accomplish, such as walking an extra two feet, so each day I just went a little further. Don't think about that daunting thing that seems unattainable — think about what I can do today to be just that much closer to that goal."
While spirituality helped Gloria keep her will to become better & stronger each day, her passion for music pushed her to look past all her struggles. She said, "I never got into music for fame. I did it because I love music, and it's been the thing that has gotten me through the toughest times of my life."
Gloria who's isolating during the pandemic with her 67-year-old husband at her home in Miami sees music as a unifying source that is helping people get through these tough times. "I have a deep respect for music and what it can do to people. So whenever I put something out, I am very conscious of trying to have it be something that is going to make people either feel better — or be able to cry or speak words to a loved one that maybe they can't come up with themselves," she said.
Her confrontation with death has helped her focus on the things that make every day special. Explaining she said, "I like to delve into things that really unite us and that are common like love, loss of love. We all want the same things. We all want acceptance. We all want happiness. And those are the things that I focus on."
Her struggle also led her to help find a cure for spinal injury. She got together with a prominent spinal cord specialist in South Florida, Dr. Barth Green, and became an active participant in Buoniconti Fund's program Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, to raise awareness about injuries related to the spinal cord.
She donated million-dollar gifts to the project and also served in the Buoniconti Fund’s board of directors. According to Fox News, Gloria told Fox News Latino, “I vowed that I would do whatever I could in my lifetime to help find a cure." Looks like her efforts have shown result.
The international team of the Miami Project has more than 300 scientists, researchers, clinicians, and support staff working to find a cure for spinal cord and brain injuries.
“It really important to try to help it along and it won’t just be for paralysis but it’ll be for any neurological disease or issues,” she said and added, “They’re going to be helped very much by this research, and I’m just happy to do what I can to help keep it going.”